Hospital Not Liable for Disappearance of Mentally Ill Daughter Even Though Mother Only Left Her Alone for 45-Minute Meeting with Counselor Because Nurse Promised to Look After Daughter

Nash v. Sisters of Providence, No. 28295-0-11, 2003 WL 21791593 (Wash. Ct. App. Aug. 5, 2003); 12(33) BNA's Health Law Reporter 1278 (Aug. 14, 2003)

A Washington Court of Appeals ruled that a hospital could not be held liable for the promise made to a mother by a nurse to look after her mentally ill 15-year-old daughter while the mother conferred with a counselor. The family's physician had arranged for the daughter to be evaluated at the hospital after he concluded the daughter showed symptoms similar to the manic phase of a manic­ depressive disorder.  The mother took her daughter to the hospital's emergency room where the hospital's notes indicated the daughter was acting "manic and paranoid," had a six-month history of depression and mania, and her status was "urgent."  The hospital's crisis services counselor asked to meet privately with the mother.  When the mother said she did not want to leave her daughter alone in an examination room, the counselor asked a nurse from the nurses' station across the hallway to watch the daughter.  The nurse explained she could watch the room from a video monitor. Finding this acceptable, the mother left to meet with the counselor in another room. When they returned 45 minutes later, the daughter was gone. The nurse said she had left her station to administer an l.V. to another patient. The parents have not seen their daughter since then...

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1